Motor Homes Date Back to Early 1900s

By Scanlan, Dan | The Florida Times Union, July 4, 1998 | Go to article overview

Motor Homes Date Back to Early 1900s


Scanlan, Dan, The Florida Times Union


It's a simple Ford Model T truck, circa 1916, done in the "any

color you want as long as it's black" typical of Henry Ford's

most popular car, brightened only with a brass radiator shell.

But what makes this T different is what's behind its upright

windshield and black leather bench seat.

It's a camper, a 1916 Telescoping Apartment to be exact and

one of less than 100 made by the company prior to closing down in

1917. Antique camper and trailer collector David Woodworth owns

it, and he showed it to WHEELS.

"It was made by Telescope in San Francisco, and was introduced

in February, 1916," Woodworth said. "It cost $100 and it was

designed to bolt on the back of a Model T Roadster or Runabout.

But they went out of business shortly after they started because

we entered World War I."

Woodworth does a national RV History Tour sponsored by the

Recreation Vehicle Industry Association. Every two years, he

hauls out one of his restored motor homes, hitches it behind a

new motor home and hits 50 cities.

Motor homes date back almost as far as the automobile, he says.

Campers were first built on the back of cars in 1902, with

tent trailers popping up in 1910.

More elaborate bodies were built on car and truck chassis.

By 1916, modified cars like the Telescoping with boxes on back

made of wood and tin were all over the place.

In fact, Henry Ford himself used to join other notables of the

day for camping trips with more elaborate motor homes, smoking

cigars around the campfire in places like Grand Teton National

Park.

Woodworth found the Telescoping four years ago at a swap meet

in California.

The vehicle started out as a $440, 22-hp Model T Roadster.

The box on back is scarcely three feet long, attached behind

the seat with four bolts.

That black leather bench seat has room for three, while the

driver faces a four-spoke steering wheel with hand ignition

controls and a wooden firewall. …

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